The Sussex Interview

Oprah’s interview with Harry and Meghan is on a par with the 1995 BBC interview with Lady Diana. It asked for compassion, and got it. And, like Diana’s, did it manipulate too? Oh yes.

So much in those two hours, but a couple of things niggled at me. Things that weren’t only in the murky realm of “they said”. Rather things that can held up and examined.

Romance or irresponsibility

Meghan said she did no research into Harry or the Royals before agreeing to marry him. No, she didn’t google her husband-to-be. And she said, as an American, she knew very little about the Royal Family.

However, as Oprah pointed out, when anyone marries, they are marrying the family as well as a person. In the case of a royalty, you’re also marrying a whole nation, a whole commonwealth maybe. I think it’s incumbent on you, in that case, to find out what you’re letting yourself in for. Or simply learn about the people and country you’re going to be a part of. As my husband said, if you were asked to give a speech to the Caterpillar Collectors of Peoria, you’d likely google them and Peoria just so you’d know a little bit before you got there.

If you don’t, at least in marriage, the person you’re marrying should point familial expectations and potential pitfalls to you. Especially, I’d think, when it’s a royal family with a national – and international – press hungry for any and all details about you.

Harry has had a few girlfriends leave him because they didn’t want to be part of the circus that comes with being a royal in Britain. Plus, as he made clear in this interview, he knows how horribly wrong it can go. So wouldn’t he make it crystal-clear to Meghan what she was letting herself in for?

A funny story Meghan told suggests that he didn’t even make it clear what it would be like being a family member. On the way to Andrew’s house, where the Queen was expected to drop in, he casually asked her if she knew how to curtsy. Five minutes away from arriving, Meghan laughed, no time to even google it. So some practice curtsies outside before she went in to meet the queen of the family, the Queen of the realm.

That gobsmacked me. Harry not realizing that there is absolutely no reason why Meghan would know how to curtsy. Unless she needed to know for a period piece she was acting it, it’s just not something regular people learn. So was he really still that wrapped up in his royal cocoon?

Security

Meghan and Harry said that their security had been pulled when they lived in Canada. Oprah asked who provided the security. The UK, he said. Wait a minute, Harry. You might want to acknowledge Canada did too, through the RCMP. Our government was pretty tight-lipped about the amount because Canadian taxpayers on the whole weren’t very happy about it.

But we had no choice while you were working royals. You were then classified as IPPs – internationally protected persons. All countries agree to pay security costs for visiting IPPs. So while you were here, we paid. When you no longer were working royals, the security obligations ended. That’s how it works. It wasn’t personal.

Archie

The security discussion led Meghan to talk about Archie’s titles, or lack thereof, and again the unidentified “them”. Security being withdrawn from Harry and Meghan meant no security for the baby either. If he were a prince, she implied, he’d be entitled to security. Huh? Is he a working royal? He’s two.

Then she went into a confused and confusing explanation of why Archie doesn’t have a title and won’t in future, she says. The “George V or George VI convention” – her words. There’s probably several libraries in the palaces, and there’s a resident queen who knows a lot about this stuff. But, failing those, there’s Google.

I goggled it: Archie will become a prince, and HRH, when he is a grandchild of the reigning monarch. At present, he is a great-grandchild. It was the Queen’s grandfather, George V, who decided how many generations for what titles in his 1917 Letters Patent.

Queen Elizabeth changed some of those rules in 2012 before the birth of Prince George. She removed the male heir precedence and she deemed all children of direct heirs to the throne to be styled Prince or Princess. That would be the children of William, who is the heir after Charles. Harry and his children are not in that direct line. Charles may do his own Letters Patent and change things again when he is king.

As working royals, the Sussexes – and their children – were entitled to security paid for by the British government. But now, with their change in status, they’re not. Again, it’s not personal.

Commonwealth

Towards the end of the interview, Harry and Meghan said what a great loss for the Commonwealth that their removal from official royaldom was. They were emblematic of it, and as Meghan said “see it, be it.” True, and quite possibly part of the Queen’s thinking when she appointed them President and Vice-President of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.

  • Here’s what I wrote when Harry and Meghan got married. Feels like a long time ago, but less than three years.

Johnny Briggs

Mike-Baldwin-1991-corriepediaJohnny Briggs died yesterday, February 28th, at the age of 85. For those who knew him as Mike Baldwin on Coronation Street, the world is a bit darker today. Mike Baldwin died 15 years ago, but knowing that he still lived in Johnny Briggs somehow made all seem as it should.

John Ernest Briggs MBE was born in Battersea, London in 1935. He started acting in his early teens. In 1976 he joined Coronation Street as Mike Baldwin. He left the show in 2006.

Mike Baldwin came to Weatherfield from London and set up the garment factory that eventually became Underworld. He was neither trusted nor liked by street residents, partly because he was from the south and partly because he was not particularly trustworthy. He was a chancer. He reinforced every negative stereotype of London that Northerners held dear. And he enjoyed doing it. So you, as the viewer, enjoyed it too.

Ken 1 – Mike 0

His opposite in ethos and ethics was Ken Barlow. Ken represented everything that Mike scoffed at, and Mike was everything that Ken Mike-Deirdre-Ken-1983-corriepedialoathed. So, of course, they became opponents in love too. Mike had an affair with Deirdre, Ken’s wife. Their triangle was a huge storyline in the early 1980s. So big that during a 1983 soccer game between Manchester United and Arsenal, after Coronation Street aired, a notice flashed on the scoreboard, “Ken and Deirdre reunited. Ken 1 – Mike 0”.

Mike compounded their personal antagonism by marrying Ken’s daughter Susan. When Mike and Susan’s grown-up son Adam Barlow returned to Weatherfield in 2016, he was a Glaswegian mini-Mike. Cigar in hand, attitude all over the place and an unerring sense of where the Scotch bottle was kept in Underworld’s office.

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Mike’s leaving story was one of the most emotionally moving in the show’s long history. In 2006, deteriorating with Alzheimer’s, he collapsed from a heart attack on the street. Ken Barlow was the only person there. He got down on the cobbles and gathered him in his arms. Mike’s final words were, “You’re finished, Barlow! Deirdre loves me. She’s mine.” A bittersweet, and heartbreaking, indicator of Mike’s present, and of his past.

Thank you, Mr. Briggs, for 30 years of Mike Baldwin. Condolences to the Briggs family, and the Coronation Street family, on your loss.

See Mr. Briggs’ obituary at The Guardian.